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City council gets silversmith preview

Posted: September 14, 2017 4:58 p.m.
Updated: September 15, 2017 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

Camden City Council members Jeffrey Graham and Deborah Davis examine, respectively, a silver tablespoon and teaspoon crafted by Alexander Young in the 1800s. They are wearing the blue non-latex gloves in order not to get oil from their skin on the spoons. The examples of Young’s craftsmanship were part of a special presentation to council by Katherine Richardson, director of the Camden Archives and Museum, where an exhibit of Young’s work is on display through Jan. 28, 2018.

Members of Camden City Council, along with City Manager Mel Pearson, donned blue non-latex gloves at the behest of Camden Archives and Museum Director Katherine Richardson during Tuesday’s council meeting.

Richardson had council and Pearson wear the gloves, which she also wore, in order to pass around examples of silver work done by Alexander Young. Richardson said Young was born Scotland in 1783, moved to Baltimore at age 16 and then again to South Carolina, living in Camden by 1807. An exhibit on the businessman, silversmith, clockmaker, book seller and store owner is on display now in the Archives’ Whiteley Room.

There was some initial laughter from council and others assembled when Richardson first asked them to put the gloves on, but there was a serious reason for the request.

“When you work in a museum, you know that you do not touch things without these on or Rickie Good, our curator, will kill you,” Richardson joked; more seriously, she said, “They keep things from getting oils from your skin on them.”

In addition to being a silversmith and clockmaker, Richardson said he also sold patent medicines and jewelry.

“He did whatever he had to do to make a living, and I thought it would be way more fun to tell you about Alexander Young with a little bit of show and tell because you can talk about silver until you’re blue in the face, but it’s different when you can hold it,” Richardson said.

With that, she picked out a teaspoon and table (or dessert) spoon, both marked with Alexander’s silver mark.

“I thought you all would feel differently about it if you could see these pieces and how well balanced they are,” she said.

Richardson said Young and his first wife, Elizabeth’s first home was just south of the Price House.

“They eventually bought all the property from Joseph Kershaw’s estate, up where the Haigler Apartments are and that’s where he lived,” she said.

She also pointed out a poster on a stand in the council chamber depicting a teapot Young made. Richardson assured them the teapot is part of the collection.

“People around the country that know silver and are experts know that teapot because it’s so unusual. It’s just an outstanding piece,” Richardson said. “There’s a creamer that goes with this teapot that was found in England and I believe it’s at Colonial Williamsburg, so you can see how sought after this man was.”

Richardson said he was also very involved in the community, serving on the committee that acquired the lots on which Bethesda Presbyterian Church was built as well as on the committee that supervised its construction. He has a connection to Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette, who served as a general in the American Revolutionary War. Years later, he visited Camden and used a silver trowel crafted by Young to lay the cornerstone for the Baron de Kalb monument in front of Bethesda Presbyterian.

Young died at the age of 73 in 1856 and is buried in Quaker Cemetery.

The Alexander Young exhibit will be on display in the Whiteley Room through Jan. 28, 2018.

In other business Tuesday:

• Main Street Program Manager Katharine Spadacenta provided an update on progress made on recommendations by the Municipal Association of South Carolina and its statewide Main Street program.

• Ken Simmons, of KBS LLC, presented a proposed plan to convert the old wastewater lagoon at the end of Bramblewood Plantation Road into an education and recreation center.

• Council unanimously proclaimed the week of Sept. 17-23 as Constitution Week.

• Council unanimously resolved to authorize the consumption of beer and wine during the Lemons Parade and Block Party.

• Council unanimously resolved to authorize the consumption of beer and wine during the Revolutionary Run Half Marathon.

• Council unanimously approved Leaders Legacy bench recognitions honoring Richard Lackey, Perry McCoy and Thomas E. “Daddy Mac” McLester.

Council also entered a closed-door session to discuss a contractual matter related to wholesale power. Council took no action after returning from the closed-door session.

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